In many school shootings, the person who pulled the trigger — often a current or former student — is the only one blamed. The arrest of a Virginia mother whose 6-year-old son shot his teacher, and a related investigation of school employees, shows how parents and educators are facing increasing scrutiny over any responsibility they may bear, the Associated Press reports. At least seven criminal cases against parents have been filed in the last eight years after a child brought a gun to school and it was fired, intentionally or not.
The Virginia mother of the 6-year-old was charged with felony neglect, while prosecutors have started investigating whether the actions of Newport News Public Schools employees could lead to criminal charges. The criminal probe was announced after the wounded teacher sued the school system. She accused administrators of ignoring multiple warnings that the boy had brought a gun to school.
Criminal investigations of parents as well as schools are rare, but they appear to be gaining traction as communities demand accountability and new ways to prevent the violence. Guns came from the home of a parent or close relative in 76% of school attacks where firearms were used, found a 2019 assessment by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The K-12 School Shooting Database lists more than 2,000 incidents of gun violence in schools dating back to 1970. A review of its database and news articles shows that at least 11 adults have been charged, including the Newport News mother. Seven cases have been brought since 2015. Among them was a Chicago mother charged last year with child endangerment after a gun in her second-grader’s backpack accidentally discharged at school, injuring a 7-year-old classmate. In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teen received probation for failing to remove guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill students in 2018. He fired shots inside his school and later killed himself.